Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking musical Cats has prowled its way into Dubai…

Hide your catnip: A clowder of all-singing, all-dancing felines are headed for the Emirates. Cats, the musical by legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, will bring Mr Mistoffelees and the other Jellicle Cats to life at Dubai Opera this month.

The 35-year-old show has reportedly grossed more than Dhs7.95 billion worldwide – not bad for a musical that was almost never made.

Cast CATS Tour

In the late ’70s, Webber and producer Cameron Mackintosh could only raise about half of the funds they needed, but the composer was so determined to see his musical on stage that he took out a second mortgage to cover the costs.

Initially, critics weren’t keen on a musical with no obvious plot, not to mention one based on a poetry book for children, TS Eliot’s 1939 Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats. Of course, Cats defied the critics by attracting packed-out audiences and when it finally closed in 2000, it was the longest running musical on both the West End and Broadway.

Macavity CATs

Fortunately, after several dormant years, the original team revived the musical in London in 2014, then Broadway followed suit, and now the UAE.

Creating a cat

Here’s a day in the life of one of the Cats…

Name: Joanna Ampil

Character: Grizabella


10am: After a show day I usually wake up around 10am and the first thing I do is drink some lemon water to help soothe my throat.

5pm: A couple of hours before the show starts, I’ll do vocal warm ups and physical warm ups.

6.30pm: My cat makeup takes me about 45 minutes. When I first started, they taught me how to do it myself [the performers all do their own makeup] – they basically did half on my face while I did the other half to match. I find it very therapeutic and it’s become part of my routine when I’m getting into character.

7pm: I’m too busy doing my makeup to have any other pre-show rituals, but I’ll go through the lyrics of my songs before going on stage. A lot of people in the audience know Grizabella’s song Memory, so I have to make sure that I don’t mess it up.

10pm: There’s no time to rest between songs during the show. I’m either doing a quick change, or touching up my makeup.

11pm: When the show’s over it takes me about 45 minutes to ‘de-cat’.

Munkustrap CATS

Cat facts…

Dame Judi Dench was supposed to play Grizabella at London’s premiere, but pulled out after snapping her Achilles tendon.

Cats held the record as London’s longest running musical until 2006, when it was beaten by Les Misérables.

It was also Broadway’s longest-running musical between 1997 and 2006, w­hen The Phantom Of The Opera stole the title.

The X Factor UK winner Leona Lewis is currently playing Grizabella on Broadway.

Until January 28
Dubai Opera, Dubai Opera District, Downtown Dubai, Dubai, Mon to Thur 8pm, Fri 2pm and 8pm, Sat 2pm and 7pm, Dhs275. Tel: (800) 36227. Metro: Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall.